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Traveling On a Shoestring Budget

There was a time when most people attending meetings had a little something know as the “travel budget.”


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As a recovering manager, I remember those heady days of travel budgets with a deep and abiding fondness. I can still recall the limousine drivers named Jacques . . . the five star hotels with a doorman named Jacques . . . the fancy restaurants with a snotty maitre d’ named Jacques. It was a world full of unlimited possibilities. Not to mention Jacques.

But lately the term travel budget has been tragically desecrated by the addition of two simple words: “on” and “a”.  As in, you must now travel  “on a budget.”

And so, alas, meeting-goers now wonder, where are all the Jacques? Let’s face it, traveling for some people isn’t what it used to be (unless what you were used to was hitchhiking to Sudbury and camping out in the back parking lot of Bob’s Meat Emporium).

So what’s a meeting-goer to do? Attend a conference in your home city? Please. That’s certainly not a reasonable way to escape your family and office for a few days.

Clearly, you still need to travel, but let’s face it, traveling costs these days can stretch (read: wipe out) your department’s entire training budget. (Assuming you have a budget to wipe out. If you don’t budget, then please, travel at will and enjoy yourself.)

Relax,  my fellow penny-pinching road warriors, help is on the way. Over the years, I’ve learned a few tricks that can save you literally tens of dollars on your next out of town business meeting.

1. Flying on the Fly:  You have a few options here to save some money (however, be warned, one of the options involves not flying really so much as cruising down a highway in the back of a bus).

First, if you want the cheap seats or to use your reward miles, you’ll have to book early. If you haven’t already booked for the spring of 2019, you’re too late.

Another option is to offer the airlines some help in lieu of a reduced fare. Booking your own flight, selecting your own seat, checking yourself in, printing out your boarding pass, printing out your baggage tags, and hauling your luggage onto the carousel …oops, we already do all, that don’t we?

Okay, so how about offering to tidy up the cabin, serve drinks or take over at the controls for a while in exchange for a hefty discount?  I’m certain some of the cash-strapped airlines will jump at the chance for free labor in exchange for…um, well, an extra bag of pretzels.

2. Eating on Your Trip. My advice: don’t. Eating can kill your budget, and let’s face it, who doesn’t need to drop a few pounds? Think of it not so much as starvation, but rather as a wonderful dieting program that you’d otherwise pay a small fortune to experience.

If you feel that somehow food is a necessity, then pack along some freeze-dried, NASA-approved goodies. This will also help make your next trip to Regina more exciting by allowing you to fantasize about being an astronaut.

And my best tip: find the nearest big box supermarket where you can wander about aimlessly for hours slowly filling up on the free samples being offered by the free sample people. They want you to eat it, that’s why they’re there. And the food is free. Hence the phrase “free samples”. Isn’t the world a wonderful place?

3.  Accommodation. Why would you sleep in a hotel when you can sleep on the bus, plane or in the back of someone’s pickup truck? Besides, unless you’re a freelance mattress tester, sleeping in some comfy hotel is not going to help you build your business. So use this otherwise unproductive travel time to sleep while being conveniently shipped from your home town to the destination of your choice. If it works so reliably for your luggage, why wouldn’t it work for you?

One final option to mull over: forget air travel and hotels altogether. I’ve got two words for you –  road trip. Sure, Canada is a big place, but heck, it’s no Russia, and if you give yourself enough time, you can reach almost any destination within a good solid week or two (or maybe three, as you should allow some time for getting lost, breakdowns and unseasonable weather conditions between August 15 and June 30).  By packing along a few P & J sandwiches and a sleeping bag, you’ve effectively taken care of accommodation, airfare and meals in one cheap swoop.

After all, traveling on a budget shouldn’t be complicated.

Michael Kerr is the author of Inspiring Workplaces – The Way Work OUGHT to Be, Putting Humor to Work and The Humor Advantage. He is a very funny Canadian motivational speaker who delivers insightful and funny talks on how to create a more inspiring, successful workplace.;


Copyright © 2018, Michael Kerr. All rights reserved.
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